- If you’re looking for the best laptop out there, there are a ton of different choices. However, the Dell XPS 13 is the best laptop we’ve ever used – hands down.
When it comes to studying, working, or even playing, using one of the best laptops is essential if you want maximum power, efficiency, look and feel, or even value. That’s because a laptop that doesn’t work well is immediately noticeable, while one that’s sufficient for your needs just works.
With all of the various makes, models, and product types out there, buying the best laptop that suits your needs has become an awfully involved process. After all, laptops are complex machines, with differences even within the same line of product. So, here are the three key aspects to consider when buying that best laptop:
- Operating system: A laptop’s operating system (OS) is the interface through which you access everything in the computer, from work apps to games and more. The most popular OS worldwide is Windows 10, found in hundreds of different laptops from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and more. It’s a widely adaptable OS and most supported by third-party app makers. Apple’s macOS is exclusive to MacBooks, and is the most compatible with Apple’s other products, like iPhones, but it is a popular and full-featured OS in itself. Finally, all Chromebooks run Chrome OS – the newest of the three – Google’s Chrome browser-focused OS that works mainly off the cloud (online), particularly through Google’s own suite of apps and services, like Google Drive and Gmail.
- Specs: The internal hardware that powers a laptop is considered the “specs,” and will dictate how effective your laptop is at various tasks. The processor (CPU) and memory (RAM) impact the laptop’s raw power or speed and multitasking capacity, respectively. The storage (hard disk drive or HDD, or solid-state drive or SSD) will determine how much space for files the laptop has. The graphics processor (GPU) dictates how effective the laptop is at rendering video and 3D visuals for games; many laptops, particularly in the low-to-midrange, utilize what’s called internal graphics, which shares RAM with the CPU rather than a dedicated GPU. The laptop’s display sharpness is determined by pixel density, with 1080p (or Full HD) being the generally desirable target. Finally, all of these factors contribute to the laptop’s battery life, with eight hours generally being the minimum acceptable number – unless it’s a gaming laptop.
- Size: Another thing you’ll want to think about is how big the laptop is. A smaller laptop will ultimately be more portable, but a larger one will have a larger display, which is better for watching movies, photo editing, video production, and playing games. Common sizes for laptops are 13 inches and 15 inches, though 11 inches and 17 inches also appear every now and then.
Of course, you’ll want to think about the price. Although the very best laptops will cost you $1,000 or more, we’ve tried to offer a variety of laptops in different price ranges in this guide. You can also check out the best college laptops you can buy, the best Chromebooks to date, and the best budget laptops if money is tight. If you prefer Macs, we also have a guide on the best MacBooks.
I’ve spent a decade covering technology, particularly laptops. I’ve tested and reviewed hundreds of laptops and tablets running Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Google Chrome OS. This testing has been both anecdotal as well as supported by benchmarks, some of which I have developed myself in the past. All told, I’ve spent more than half of my career obsessing over laptops big and small, cheap and chic, to determine which laptops are the right fit for all sorts of users.
Here are the best laptops you can buy:
- Best laptop overall: Dell XPS 13
- Best 13-inch laptop: HP Envy 13t
- Best MacBook: Apple MacBook Air
- Best Chromebook: Google Pixelbook Go
- Best 15-inch laptop: LG Gram 17
- Best budget laptop: Acer Chromebook 15
- Best 2-in-1 laptop: Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch)
- Best Microsoft laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)
- Best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15
Updated on 01/14/2020 by Joe Osborne: Added several other products that we had considered for this buying guide, but didn’t make the cut as an official pick.
The best laptop overall
The Dell XPS 13 strikes an incredible balance between the most powerful mobile hardware to date in an attractive, thin, and light chassis for a reasonable high-end price.
Dell’s flagship 13-incher has been the overall best laptop for years, and this year is no different. Why? It’s because the Dell XPS continues to be the best cross between power, portability, and looks for general users, making it the best laptop for most people.
This year marks the Dell XPS 13 adopting the latest in Intel CPU technology: the 10th-generation Core chips built on the 10-nanometer (nm) process. This means exponentially more transistors on the same CPU die space, leading to even more power and longer battery life. The result is more than 19 hours of battery life from the Full HD (1080p) model, by Dell’s claim.
Dell’s late 2019 update also carries over its most important change to the early 2019 model: moving the webcam back to the top of the display. The webcam remains 720p, but it comes equipped with far-field microphones for stronger smart-assistant performance. Better yet, Dell crammed not only two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C versatility at 40Gbps speeds) ports in the XPS 13, but managed to keep a microSD card slot.
The base configuration Dell XPS 13 starts with an Intel Core i3 CPU, a 13.3-inch 1080p display, 4GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD – starting at $949.99. It comes in Platinum Silver with a black carbon-fiber palm rest – weighing just 2.7 pounds and measuring merely 0.3 inches thin. With several options in between, the laptop maxes out with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 4K Ultra-High-Definition (UHD at 2160p) touchscreen with Rose Gold and Alpine White color options for $2,349.99 list price.
Pros: Excellent design, long battery life, latest hardware, lots of ports
Cons: Webcam should be 1080p, certain colors locked to higher specs
The best 13-inch laptop
The HP Envy 13t brings flagship performance, look, feel, and features to a more affordable price point.
HP’s Envy 13t is our pick for the best 13-inch laptop, bringing high-end hardware and decent looks to an approachable price point – and more so in some areas than our best overall pick, the Dell XPS 13. It’s also even lighter than the laptop that tops this list, and has the option for dedicated graphics at higher-end configurations.
The most affordable version of this laptop features Intel’s eighth-generation CPUs, but that’s still plenty of power for general users. Where the HP Envy 13t truly shines is in its additional features that few other laptops in its price range offer and help set it apart.
Those features include a built-in webcam privacy shutter for when you’re not using it, as well as a fingerprint reader integrated into the laptop for biometric login via Windows Hello. And, for the audio lovers out there, top-firing quad speakers beneath a geometric pattern speaker grill are tuned by Bang & Olufsen for premium sound. Oh, and its battery can charge up to 50% in just 45 minutes, lasting more than nine hours in many reviewers’ tests.
The cheapest HP Envy 13t model is surprisingly powerful, packing an eighth-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD – all behind a 13.3-inch, 1080p display – for a $999.99 list price but can often be found as low as $799.99. Options from there bump up the price quickly, but include options for Nvidia MX250 graphics, more RAM and storage, a touchscreen, as well more updated makes with 10th-gen Intel Core CPUs. All HP Envy 13t models come featuring two USB 3.1 ports, one USB-C 3.1 port, and an SD card reader, coming in “Natural Silver” and “Pale Gold” colors.
Pros: Lots of power for the price, nifty webcam privacy shutter, fast-charging battery
Cons: Upgrades get pricey quickly
The best MacBook
The newest MacBook Air iterates on the 2018 design with more powerful hardware for a drop in price, making it our favorite laptop from Apple.
The latest MacBook Air – running with the new design first established in 2018 – brings several modern niceties to Apple’s most iconic laptop to date. Those include a beyond-HD (2,560 x 1,600), 13.3-inch screen, Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor (for login, online passwords and Apple Pay), and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
This MacBook Air display is exactly the same as what comes within the stronger and pricier 13-inch MacBook Pro. That means the screen also features Apple’s True Tone technology, which matches the color gamut to the color tone of ambient light in its space. This is a blessing for users with sensitive eyes, particularly to blue light emitted by all electronic screens.
True to its storied namesake, the 2019 MacBook Air is Apple’s best laptop for battery life, claimed to last for up to 12 hours of wireless web browsing. With that, you can expect the MacBook Air to hold on for almost all intercontinental flights – something that not many, if any, Windows laptops can say.
Apple offers the latest MacBook Air in its “Space Gray,” silver, and gold colors. For its $1,099.99 starting list price, the laptop includes all of the above, driven by an eighth-generation, fanless dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. You can upgrade these components at checkout, just know that these get expensive almost immediately.
Pros: Sharp and vibrant display, Touch ID, light and thin, long-lasting battery
Cons: Fanless CPU, upgrades get pricey fast
The best Chromebook
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
The Google Pixelbook Go offers the ultimate Chromebook experience in its most affordable form to date, with an incredible keyboard and long battery life.
Google’s follow-up to its original 2-in-1 Chromebook, the Pixelbook, is frankly the most comfortable and premium laptop of its kind that we’ve ever used. It’s known simply as the Pixelbook Go, and it’s a more affordable distillation of Google’s previous flagship.
While the Pixelbook Go loses the 2-in-1 functionality of the straight Pixelbook that preceded it, the clamshell laptop maintains a 13.3-inch, 1080p touchscreen. However, what’s even easier to appreciate is the improvement here on Google’s “Hush” keyboard, being one of the quietest and most comfortable laptop keyboards to date. You might also appreciate the 1080p webcam here, a feature largely unheard of in a laptop of this price – Chromebook or otherwise.
Couple all of that with a battery life rated for up to 12 hours, like that of the newest MacBook Air (not to mention a battery that can charge two hours of use in 20 minutes), and you have a strong mobile companion. It also helps that the Pixelbook Go’s magnesium build weighs just 2 pounds and measures 0.5 inches thin, featuring two USB-C ports.
Google starts the Pixelbook Go asking price at $649.00, which includes a fanless, dual-core 8th-generation Intel Core m3 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD in either “Just Black” or “Not Pink” colors. That’s plenty to run Google’s lightweight Chrome OS, but can be configured with fanless Intel Core CPUs up to the i7, twice as much RAM, up to 256GB of SSD space, and even a 2160p display – all maxing out at $1,399.00, which we don’t recommend splurging for unless you’re a mega fan.
Pros: Incredible keyboard, long battery life, 1080p webcam, decent display
Cons: No biometric login option, pricey upgrade options
The best 15-inch laptop
- Best Buy
Simply put, the LG Gram 17 fits a 17-inch display into a 15-inch laptop with some of the smallest display bezels in the industry. It’s also incredibly thin and light without sacrificing power.
You might be wondering why a laptop with a 17-inch display is our favorite pick for 15-inch laptops. That’s because the LG Gram 17 crams that large of a display into a chassis that’s just 15 inches wide, making it a 15-inch laptop with a 17-inch display – just wild.
The laptop’s silver-colored, nano carbon magnesium body also weighs far less than most 15-inch laptops at just 2.95 pounds to start, and it measures a mere 0.7 inches thin. This discrepancy between screen size and frame size is due to incredibly thin display bezels, particularly on its sides.
LG’s Gram 17 also features a fingerprint reader built into its power button, making login super fast through Windows Hello. Finally, the LG Gram 17’s light weight doesn’t necessarily mean it’s light on power: it offers up a WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) display driven by a quad-core, fan-cooled 8th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, and the laptop is equipped with a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI, three USB 3.0 ports, and a microSD card reader.
There is only one configuration for the LG Gram 17, and it’s a doozy: $1,699.99, which is a lot for even this marvel of engineering. In addition to that CPU, the laptop includes 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a battery inside that can last up to 19 hours and 30 minutes, by LG’s measure. Altogether, this makes the LG Gram 17 a 15-inch laptop that’s tough to beat.
Pros: 17-inch display in 15-inch body, built-in fingerprint reader, long battery life
Cons: No top-firing speakers, small trackpad
The best budget laptop
The Acer Chromebook 15 nails the basics commonly found in laptops twice its price, offering the most serious value we’ve seen in a budget laptop.
If you’re looking for everything you can squeeze out of little money as possible, then we recommend Acer’s Chromebook 15. This Chrome OS laptop gets you plenty of features found in more expensive laptops for a lot less, like a 1080p display, top-firing speakers and USB-C connectivity.
This not only allows you to watch movies and other videos – as well as do web-based work and other tasks – at native resolution on a relatively large display, but also enjoy the fuller stereo audio made possible by top-firing speakers. As for the USB-C connectivity, that runs on the USB 3.1 standard, meaning data transfer speeds up to 5 Gigabits per second, as well as DisplayPort support for connecting additional screens and device charging.
The Acer Chromebook 15 also sports a webcam with high dynamic range, or HDR, for deeper color support in video chats, and an 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio – the most widely used standard today. Suffice it to say that you’re getting the niceties of a $600 laptop for almost half the price.
As for that price, Acer lists this particular Chromebook 15 model at $349.99, which includes a dual-core Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD, two USB-C ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized SD card reader, and a battery that’s rated to last for up to 12 hours. You can’t really ask for much more from a $350 laptop.
Pros: Large 1080p display, long battery life, top-firing speakers, plenty of ports
Cons: No biometric login, small local storage
The best 2-in-1 laptop
- Best Buy
The Lenovo Yoga C940 is a fantastic iteration on its long-running series of flagship 2-in-1 laptops, making it a multimedia monster in every sense.
Lenovo’s Yoga C940 2-in-1 laptop is the company’s latest iteration on the foldable laptop trend that it helped kickstart in earnest so many years ago. This model improves the innovative speaker hinge of the previous generation, allowing for bigger sound from larger audio drivers, while moving onto 10nm Intel Core processing.
Better yet, this model will be a bit easier for users to open, thanks to a small lip added to its lid just above the webcam. The keyboard luckily remains unchanged, carrying on the IBM ThinkPad legacy that Lenovo acquired years ago in stylish fashion. Speaking of style, the Yoga C940 comes in the same slick “Iron Gray” and “Mica” colors as last year.
Lenovo has truly leaned into crafting its flagship Yoga laptop into a multimedia powerhouse, adding bottom-firing speakers into the laptop’s base for even more sound channels. Likewise, the stowaway stylus that charges when stored returns this year.
All of this comes at a $1,249.99 list price, which includes inside a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, a 1080p touchscreen, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 port, a fingerprint reader, and a webcam privacy shutter – with several upgrade options available. Powering all of this is a battery that’s rated to last for up to 15 hours, according to Lenovo, and can drum up 80% charge in just one hour. With that, Lenovo retains its lead in 2-in-1 laptops.
Pros: Latest Intel processors, improved audio hardware, stowaway stylus
Cons: Fingerprint reader placement is dated
The best Microsoft laptop
- Best Buy
Microsoft’s 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 marks a long-overdue debut for AMD CPUs in flagship laptops, allowing for one of the strongest showings in integrated graphics to date.
Microsoft has iterated on its Surface Laptop three times now, and the most recent third crack brings with it a new model: a 15-inch variant that runs on an AMD CPU rather than Intel. It’s one of Microsoft’s longest-lasting laptops to date in terms of battery life – longer even than Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro.
This new take on the Surface Laptop 3 also brings with it an absolutely welcome new look and feel, opting for an entirely aluminum frame that comes in black or platinum colors. As for the feel, the keyboard performs excellently, being both quiet and forceful in its feedback.
The display on this new model maintains the expected 3:2 aspect ratio that’s all but exclusive to Microsoft laptops, with a 2,496 x 1,664 pixel resolution and multi-touch control. The unique aspect ratio allows for more vertical space, which displays more text content than traditional 16:9 displays – allowing for a larger workable space.
Microsoft starts the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 at $1,199.00, which features an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU specially designed by Microsoft with a custom integrated Vega 9 graphics processor that can even handle mild PC gaming. In addition, the laptop contains 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, along with one USB-C port and one USB 3.0 port. All of this is driven by a battery rated to last for up to 11 hours and 30 minutes on a charge.
Pros: New AMD CPU inside, long battery life, excellent keyboard
Cons: Too few ports, no top-firing speakers, on the pricey side
The best gaming laptop
The Razer Blade 15 strikes the ultimate balance between gaming and general performance as well as look, feel, and design – this is the best gaming laptop for gamers that still want a laptop for everything else.
Razer has long been the leader in gaming laptop design, and this year is no different. Offering power on the level of entry-grade gaming PCs from a design that rivals even Apple’s MacBook Pro line, the Razer Blade 15 certainly charges a premium but backs it up with quality hardware.
From the excellent 1080p display that can be configured up to a 144Hz refresh rate to support frame rates of up to 144 frames per second with 100% fidelity, to the alluring Chroma lighting beneath its keyboard, the Blade 15 treats you well for the steep cost. Throw in 9th-generation, 6-core CPUs and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti dedicated graphics to start, and you have a mobile PC gaming powerhouse that looks great while doing it.
The keyboard in use is also just as effective for typing as it is for gaming, helping the Blade 15 serve as a truly catch-all device for users that would like to be able to work and learn on the same laptop on which they play games in their free time. Plus, if even more graphical power is needed, the Thunderbolt 3 port can connect to an external graphics processor box for full desktop performance (at an additional cost).
Razer wants $1,599.99 list price to start for its 15-inch gaming laptop, which is no doubt a lot of money. That includes 16GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive, which should last you a long while in terms of storing games. If it’s the absolute best gaming laptop you want, one that well serves as both a straight laptop and one that can play with the best, this should be your first stop.
Pros: Excellent display, lots of power and storage, fantastic keyboard
Cons: Definitely pricey, not the best battery life
What else we considered
- Hollis Johnson
Having covered consumer technology for more than a decade now, I’ve tested countless laptops in every major category and with every major operating sytem. With that, here are the laptops that were considered for this guide, but didn’t make the cut. You may want to consider one of these for a specific need:
- MacBook Pro (13-or-15-inch) ($1,299.00 ~ $2,399.00 to start): We’ve used probably a dozen different MacBooks over the years, and at times the MacBook Pro was the one to beat. But, today, the latest MacBook Air model is the best version of the MacBook for most people. Also, the 2019 MacBook Pro was superceded late last year by the 16-inch model when it comes to Pro devices specifically.
- Huawei MateBook 13 ($929.99 to start): This could easily be our best laptop overall, offering way more than most flagship laptops for way less in a gorgeous deisgn. However, signs that it will be supported in the US for much longer – if it hasn’t been dropped already – aren’t exactly great, thanks to the US government’s big Huawei product ban looming.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 7 ($749.99 to start): The Surface Pro line of 2-in-1 Windows tablets has always been a leader in design for the category. Unfortunately, Microsoft appears to have begun resting on its laurels, with several products eclipsing the Surface Pro 7 of 2019 in terms of hardware and features.
- Dell XPS 15 ($979.99 to start): Dell’s 15-inch powerhouse could have been a shoo-in for our best 15-inch laptop, but this is another case of growing stale amid numerous developments in the 15-inch scene in terms of design. We’re going to need to see a deeper design revision before we reconsider this one for a top pick.
- Alienware m15 ($1,274.99 to start): While we love Dell’s latest flagship 15-inch gaming laptop for its design and power profile, it’s just not the best gaming laptop for most people. Regardless of its new style, it still screams “gamer” in look and feel, which isn’t something that most people who play PC games want.